Receiving a mood disorder diagnosis can feel like getting slapped with a scary label. And although one out of 10 people live with a mood disorder, it can make you feel like you’re alone.

But a diagnosis isn’t just a label — it’s a way to get answers. And it doesn’t mean you’re alone — it means you have a tribe. There are others who can help you navigate the world with a mood disorder. They’re waiting to tell you, “I’m here.”

To let people know they’re not alone, we teamed up with the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and its “I’m Here” campaign, and asked people who live with mood disorders to tell us one thing they want someone who’s been recently diagnosed to know.

Here’s what they had to say: 

1. “‘When you know better, you do better’ applies to mental illness, too. Now that you have a diagnosis and know what you’re dealing with, you’ll be able to find treatments that will make your life better.” — Meg LeRoy Schlagenhauf

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2. “Life can get better when you have a mood disorder. Many people have them! Get out, talk to a therapist and try not to seclude yourself. I’ve been on both sides — I’ve kept myself isolated, and it just made me feel worse. That’s not the way to do it.” — Pamela Scott

3. “I would say never ever give up the fight for life. Remain positive and try to keep the negative out of your mind. Keep moving and do the simple things. Don’t fall in to the trap and think you’re worthless. Keep your head high.” — Colin Tawhai

4. “I’m here if you ever need me. It may take time finding the right combination of therapy, self-care and medications, but take it one day at a time and trust your instincts. Be cautious, keep asking questions, educate yourself… and don’t settle until you’re happy with where you’re at.” — Anita Soule

5. “You are not alone. There are so many of us out in the world fighting mood disorders. Find a group or at least one person who is dealing with it, too. You can help each other so much. Life may have thrown this disease at you, but you can get through this and come out the other side even stronger.” — Jessica Fosnaugh

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6. “Truly have hope. The journey is long, but you are stronger than you could ever imagine. Don’t hide. Don’t be embarrassed. There are so many others touched by the same things.” — Andrea Armstrong

7. “Keep going! Talk to your doctors, take your meds, let your doctors know what’s working and what’s not. Make yourself go out with friends, get outside, exercise, whatever you used to enjoy. It’s hard, some days it will feel impossible! But you can do it and it will help.” — Crystal Toner

8. “Take your meds. Be part of your own treatment. Care about getting better. Get your family and friends involved. You can do it.” — Athena MacDonald

9. “A mood disorder doesn’t mean you are less than anyone else, you just have to work a little harder some days. Some days are going to really suck, but you are strong and you will get through this. Don’t isolate or push everyone away. People want to be there for you and support you. Let them.” — Danielle Hark

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10. “Be kind and understanding of yourself. You may have days where you feel like you’ve slipped back a few steps. That’s OK. Acknowledge that and tomorrow move forward again. I wish all of us continued healing and growing. No matter what our mental health issue is, we are worthy of love and support.” — Bonnie Kirsch

11. “Read and educate yourself, plus the people around you. It may come down to joining a support group online or in your community, but it really helps you not feel so along.” — Mardi Taggart

12. “It’s not the end of the world. Yes, it feels that way now, but you can get stable. Get a good psychiatrist and therapist and a good support system. These will be as important as the medicine you take. And lastly, take care of yourself.” — Athena MacDonald

13. “You will have hard days. There will be times you won’t/can’t get out of bed, times when you wonder if your meds are working, moments where you ask, “Why me?” So yes, there will be bad days, but there will also be just as many good days. Good days that make you feel so alive you’ll forget about the bad times. Days when you watch the sunrise, spend time with family and friends and do things that put a smile on your face. A diagnosis is not what defines us as a person, only we have the ability to decide what we become.” — Casandra Little

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14. “Medications can take time to get right, so hang in there through the bad times and look towards the better times. Best of luck in your fight, everyone.” — Christopher Mulcahy

15. “You are still a person. The same person you always were. You might find people treat you differently. Set your own boundaries and look after yourself.” — Natasha Rose

16. “I’m listening.” — Bonnie Kibbe Reinhardt

17. “Some days will be harder than is conceivable, but those days will make you stronger than you ever dreamed you could be! Be a warrior every day.” — Jean Vinyard-Vickers

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*Answers have been edited and shortened for brevity.

To learn more about DBSA’s “I’m Here” campaign, click here.

I’m here… is a program brought to you by DBSA made possible through the support of Rebecca’s Dream® Foundation.

 

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An energy drink company is under fire for its name, which advocates say is stigmatizing and insensitive towards those with mental illnesses.

The drink, only sold in California, is called 51Fifty — the term used by law enforcement and first responders in the state when someone is deemed “a danger to himself or others” and needs to be evaluated and placed on involuntary psychiatric hold.

Its tagline is: “Live the Madness.”

Eve Hinson, who lives with post-traumatic disorder and suffers from psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, said when she first saw the 51Fifty delivery van in her town, she was outraged — and it didn’t take long for her to act. The next day, she launched the #TheReal5150 campaign.

“I wanted to make this negative a positive,” Hinson told The Mighty. “If they’re going to use it, we’re going to take it back.”

Using the hashtag, #TheReal5150, Hinson and her campaign partner Rhonda Wirzberger-Thornton encouraged people in the mental health community to share their stories. Meanwhile, they started a boycott of the brand and put pressure on local stores who were carrying the project.

One of those stores, Save Mart, pulled the drink from its locations just last week. According to ABC30, this was 51Fifty’s biggest big box retailer.

It’s important to us that we source local products. 51Fifty energy drink was popular among Save Mart shoppers; however, our sale of the product was never intended to diminish the seriousness of mental illness,” Save Mart spokesperson Nannette Miranda told ABC30. “We have made the decision to discontinue this product in our stores.”

According to ABC30, Carlos Vieira, CEO of 51Fifty Enterprises, said the name came from when he started racing cars — 51 was the number of his car and his friends “called him crazy for starting the hobby late in life.” Vieira said the name was, “A reminder to never quit and chase your dreams.

For Hinson and Wirzberger-Thornton, 51-50 is not just a code. Wirzberger-Thornton has been hospitalized in psychiatric hospitals at least a dozen times. And the same week she heard the news of Save Mart, her husband, who is bipolar 1 with psychotic features, was being evaluated under 51-50 to determine if he needed psychiatric intervention.

“So you can imagine my sensitivity,” she said. “People are saying I’m attacking freedom of speech. Well my husband is ‘living the madness’ — he almost killed himself.”

Now, they’re hoping other stores will follow Save Mart’s lead and pull the product. But ultimately, they’re after the trademark — hoping the company will change its name to something less stigmatizing.

The Mighty is still waiting for a comment from 51Fifty.


I never thought I’d survive. I chomp on cigarettes and carry an extra 80 pounds in weight because I never thought I would survive my suicidal thoughts. Both were attempts on my life.

I never thought I could handle it. Walking from place to place in the elements, panhandling for food and necessities, eating out of trash cans. It was too much to bear, to even think about. I wouldn’t survive.

But, here I am — seven years after the worst year of my life. Breathing. Heart beating. Smiling and laughing. Hanging out with friends. Listening to country music. Following the 2016 presidential race. Reading. Contemplating life and my values and my beliefs.

One of the movies I found in my post-suicidal life was one about mercy, the 2012 musical, “Les Miserables.” In it, Jean Valjean is given two acts of mercy — one is a place to stay after he gets out of prison, and the second is a bag of silver to start a new life, after he stole it. He is asked to see the “higher plan.” He vows to become a new man, and, spoiler, goes to heaven at the end of the film. He is not bitter, at least, eventually, about spending 19 years in prison. He learns compassion and mercy and helping others is the lesson, not hating the world.

This spoke to me because searching for soda cans (10 cents a can in Michigan) to feed myself, running into the police every two days, sleeping in the library or Starbucks, searching for a job, getting one, but having no place to shower, and losing the job, opened my heart along the way. Old “Star Trek” movies I memorized as a kid and mistakes I made in my life played in my head. Tears and wanting comfort because I was tired — I reached a new level of mental and emotional exhaustion — made me realize people on the street are doing this every day.

It wasn’t until I bought a piece of art that the first spark of hope was reignited in me. I didn’t believe it at the time, but I said, “This will hang in my apartment when I get my place.” I’ve been here seven years.

But those people are still out there. They are rarely talked about. The suicidal man who is homeless — that was me. It was like I was a ghost. No one saw me. They aren’t mentioned on TV, unless they want to pull at your heart strings around holidays. I’ve never heard them are mentioned by politicians. But I want to help. I’ve been there. I want to do something to help those people.

So, I guess I didn’t survive. My misconceptions about poverty and my misconceptions about having a mental illness are in a grave, with my heart and empathy exposed. That was a seminal event, that year of mine. It changed me. Big moments continue to teach. So, push forward. Life is a mystery — what you can handle, what you will learn and the beauty you will find — just put one step in front of the other. Sometimes, courage comes in getting from one second to the next. Remember, I have been there and I won’t say I’ll never be there again, but I saw a way out. And there is help. Hold on. Please, hold on. 

People with untreated serious mental illness comprise approximately one-third of the total homeless population. For more important, click here

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.


I suffer from eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS), depression and anxiety, and a particularly rough patch recently culminated in both of my parents coming home from work in order to be with me. I messaged my boyfriend saying how awful I felt about this. He replied, “Be grateful to them but don’t be sorry.”

This is not my first time encountering this advice — there’s a lovely comic about it here — and yet nonetheless it somehow always feels incredibly radical. My illness exists at this intersection of circumstances where I consistently need other people at the same time as feeling horrible about myself, making for a delightful feelings-cocktail of inadequacy and guilt any time somebody helps me. Others offer us help because they care about us when we are suffering, and yet the notion that you don’t have to be sorry for needing people is alien.

I believe this is absolutely a product of the way that we talk about mental illness. It’s a bit obvious to point out that many people approach mental health poorly, and at least it’s equally true that many other people can recognize sentiments like “it’s narcissism” as the bullsh*t they are and call them out as such. Unfortunately, however, it takes more than this to undo the pervasive messages we receive about “acceptable” unwellness. For example, I have been contemplating suspending my university studies because I have been unable to work for the past month, which has awakened a very convincing internal voice telling me that “running away from problems doesn’t solve them!” It has taken an awful lot of unpicking to realize that, actually, that’s a really unhelpful piece of generic self-help advice that does not apply to illness. Taking a step back from things you cannot do is not running away from your problems, and most people who are sick face their problems every day out of sheer necessity.

Much of the more subtle wrongheadedness about mental health seems to stem from the way mental illnesses are treated. People talk about their problems all the time, some would argue, and so talking therapies reveal a tragic dysfunction and inability to do things for ourselves on the part of the ill person. And yet, when people have physical injuries, they may undergo physical therapy. When parts of your brain aren’t functioning like they would if they were well, sometimes you need help to find ways of navigating and compensating for that, meaning that therapy does a very specific job for people. The fact that recovery is something you do rather than something that is bestowed upon you doesn’t mean you should have somehow been able to avoid getting sick in the first place. The fact that there are things a person with mental illness might be able to identify as helpful — exercise, mindfulness, seeing friends — doesn’t mean those things can just fix them, and it especially doesn’t mean that when they can’t do those things, they aren’t trying. Again, it’s something I feel guilty about a lot of the time; sometimes illness means that, say, I can’t see a friend, and I feel terrible for not making the effort to help myself. But nobody chooses to stay in bed and feel appalling over seeing someone they love. That is the illness.

I also blame this sense that we are supposed to be able to recover by ourselves on the fact that, for a long time, I was incredibly resistant to the idea of taking medication. I felt like medicating was proof of my inability to take care of myself, when in fact it is precisely a method we have of caring for ourselves; so are all manner of things that take a little of the onus off us, because accepting the things that will heal us is an active process. Knowing the times when you need someone else to take some of the weight is a valid part of recovery, and an important part of allowing yourself to see what is happening to you as legitimate and real and not your fault. Allowing yourself that kind of legitimacy when you feel like you don’t deserve it is hard work, as is quieting (or at least arguing with) the guilt, but it is important for writing a different narrative about this stuff, one that is kinder to those of us who are ill. I am sick, and that affects those around me. It is not my fault any more than it’s theirs, and at the end of the day, the person it most adversely affects is me. That is OK.

We’re doing OK.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images


Since I was in the fifth grade, I knew I wanted to be a nurse. I even wrote it down in my “School Days” book. Well, I wrote down social worker and teacher, too, but I knew I wanted to be a nurse. I love helping people and I love learning about medical things, so I figured being a nurse would be the best profession I could choose.  

But when I was diagnosed with major depression at age 14, things got harder. For a few years, I was trying to just survive.

Still, I went to college with the exact purpose to become a nurse. But when I went to my first pre-chemistry class, I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the anxiety. I went on to complete a degree in liberal arts, and then got a bachelor’s in psychology a few years ago. I tried and tried to become a nurse. When that didn’t work, I tried to become a medical assistant, but that failed as well.  I completed the schooling but couldn’t stay with a job due to bipolar disorder, anxiety and borderline personality disorder

I’ve realized over the years I’m just not meant to be a nurse, but I’ve always been ready to help others. After having suffered from mental illness for 19 years, about three years ago, I began to change the “suffering” part to “living well” with (although I still have bad days and suffer on those days). I began seeing  my therapist every week, seeing my psychiatrist regularly, got on a good “cocktail” of meds and began taking them as scheduled. I also began running and participating in races, went on two meditation retreats and began sharing my story. It took a ton of work, but I’m now doing better than I’ve ever been before.  

My main goal has always been to help others, and even though my illnesses didn’t allow me to be a nurse, I’m still helping others. If sharing my story of success helps one other person, then I have done my job. As any person with a mental illness will tell you, getting and staying well is really hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It takes a lot of hard work, patience (which I do not have a lot of), relying on your support system, following a routine and finding out a lot about yourself and working with that. I did all of that and continue to do it, and it was worth all the effort I put into it. It makes me proud I stuck to it. And if I can help anyone else realize they, too, can get well, I like to be called an inspiration.


In mental health, we talk a lot about stigma. How stigma leads to misconceptions about what mental illness is, how people living with mental illness act and how possible recovery is. This misconceptions hurt people’s access to support, which is the very thing that could save their life. So for this post, I wanted to use my story as a message of how I try to defeat stigma.

Oh, and it involves superheroes.

Growing up with a mental illness, I often felt torn between two people. One was “Public Me.” Public Me was the quirky manic pixie dream girl. The friend, daughter, student, sister and over user of hashtags and social media who everyone thought I was.

“Private Me” was different. Much like the story of Spiderman, I found myself battling my own personal villains. And I had a lot of personal villains: Self-hate, Anxiety, Body Issues, Eating Disorder, Depression, Suicidal Ideation, etc. I was always told these were things you don’t bring out in public to protect the people in your life from your feelings.

Like anyone with dual identities, I could only keep my two lives separate for so long. Eventually, they started to mix and I became someone my family, friends, teachers and even myself didn’t recognize. It felt like I was losing to my personal villains and began to think there was no place on Earth for a superhero who couldn’t save the ones she loved. So, after many lost battles of trying to keep my mental illness hidden away, I tried to take my own life.

It wasn’t until a few days into my stay at a local hospital that I was helped by the best superhero I could ask for. She was a patient in the ward, an older lady, who had been creepily looking at me for a few hours. She came over to me and said, “From one crazy person to another, you will need this,” put a necklace in my hand and wandered off. The necklace was a simple sliver chain with one charm on it that said “hope.” With this simple action, she showed me that people with mental illness are human. That even though she was sick, she connected with me and helped me by giving back exactly what I lost. Hope that I could be good person, that I could be an important part of society.

That sort of thinking opened my mind. I realized asking people with mental health issues to hide their struggles was like asking superheroes to fight off the worst bad guys with no weapons or super powers. That support, love and treatment are our weapons and superpowers. She showed me that everyone living with mental illness are incredibly strong. Strength is never something we should hide. It something we should celebrate. I was angered by the fact that stigma was making people hide their strength, knowing if it was cancer the world would be celebrating our will to survive.

From there, I stopped being ashamed of living with a mental illness. I try every day to be like Iron Man. If that doesn’t make any sense, let me paint a picture for you. At the end of the first Iron Man movie, Tony Stark is asked to deny that he is Iron Man and even has an alibi written up for him to present at a press conference. He approaches the podium to a wave of reporter questions, sits down, says, “I am Iron Man” and walks off. This simple movie seen has inspired me to confident with my journey and whatever new mental health struggles come by way. Even though we might not always make the right decisions or have the easiest journeys, our stories are so incredibly valid.

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After all, you’re still a badass superhero if the only person you save is yourself. Now when I speak openly about my journey, organizers of speaking events often ask me to talk about mental health in past tense. To highlight the positive parts of being mental health superhero like having a TEDxTalk and occasionally getting featured on MTV. My truth is that mental illness still affects my life, which means I have amazing days and terrible days. Yes, some days are TV appearances, kicking butt at work and laughing with my friends. Other days, I binge eat all my feelings and think about suicide. I share these experiences to show people you can be both: an advocate and struggling, successful and depressed, imperfect and inspiring and a role model while still trying. Reading this, I hope readers you know that you don’t need to be completely recovered to have a voice for change and a valid story.

Mostly importantly, wherever you are now, you are awesome.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Real People. Real Stories.

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